Peppered steaks, but not what you’d think! It’s turkey breast steak and pink peppercorns. Plus there’s a sauce for turkey steak to absolutely die for.
Turkey meat not just for Christmas
Turkey meat is available all year round though quite a few people must think it only magically arrives at Christmas. A good thing too that you can buy it all seasons because it is very healthy, lean and a versatile source of protein. You don’t have to stuff it to enjoy it.
My attitude towards turkey steaks is somewhat ambivalent: bland but useful, just like chicken breast. And it has the added value over chicken fillets of a more steakable shape.
You can mallet it lightly and fashion into scaloppini: cheaper and less controversial than veal. It can be used pretty much in any recipe instead of chicken breast fillet, like chicken rarebit or fried chicken. It can replace chicken in stir fries as well: lemon chilli turkey for one. And if you have mixed turkey meat, not just breast but thighs and/or drumsticks, it will make very good burgers.
How to season turkey steaks?
But as said above, it is quite flavourless. Turkey breast fillet off the bone and without the excitement of a whole bird roasting is a little boring. It’s not always the way though to hit bland meat with lots of spice. Just a little, gentle heat I’ve found goes best - hence the pink peppercorn turkey discovery.
Peppered steak is a common dish: coarsely crushed peppercorns, sifted off to rid of the finest, hottest powder, will form a lovely crust on beef fillet or sirloin. But black pepper is too harsh for white meat – unlike the pink.
The peppers and the berries
It could be due to the fact that pink peppercorns are not peppers but berries; closer related to Sichuan peppercorns (also not peppers) than Piper Nigrum of the Piperaceae family. Both pinks and Sichuans have the lovely, tingling, slightly numbing taste on your tongue with pinkies also being distinctly milder than Sichuans.
This is one of those marvellous dishes where the preparation takes only a few minutes but the outcome is positively showy.
How to prepare turkey steaks
I like to flatten the turkey steaks lightly on a cutting board with a meat mallet or a handle of a large knife, only to even out the thickness. I always moan about the fact that even good butchers ignore the meat grain direction and cut steaks out of the turkey breast in the most cost-effective way, rather than across the grain. But to be fair, it is delicate meat so even sliced lengthwise it cooks quickly and tenderly.
The peppercorns can be crushed in a pestle and mortar or placed in a sturdy food bag and bashed with a rolling pin. Best if there is a mix of whole, crushed and shattered corns for a varied texture to the steak.
In this instance I don’t salt the meat beforehand but like to mix coarse smoked salt with the peppercorn crumbs. The mix spread over a plate or a tray should coat the steaks generously on both sides, but it isn’t advisable to keep them coated for too long, or the salt will work too pungently on the meat.
The sauce for turkey steaks
The sauce to go with the steaks is another showy element, next to still-pink dressing of the meat. It’s easy and versatile and so delicious I swear I could have it with my dinners every night.
It’s not strictly pan juice-based sauce because some peppercorns will drop and burn in the frying pan while frying the steaks. I like to cook the sauce separately in a small skillet, to keep it clean.
Nigella's anchovy ideas
It’s amazingly simple and I’m indebted to Nigella Lawson’s anchovy recipes from her Cook, Eat, Repeat book. It is all about melting a couple of anchovy fillets in a little butter with finely diced gherkin and stirring cream into the mix. Capers instead of gherkin are another option but I can never NOT use a gherkin if I have a chance.
Together the turkey steaks, the pink pepper and the salty-sour sauce work beautifully. Chalk this one up for when we are allowed to have people round for dinners again, post-pandemic!